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October 08, 2011


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Who should one feel sympathy for at this point, the Simpsons voice cast forced to accept 'only' in the region of $250,000 per episode, or a sophomore director unable or unwilling to expeditiously honour his contractual running-time obligations even with Scorsese and Schoonmaker's assistance?

Glenn Kenny

No offense (or do I mean "offence?"), OC, but as you might have inferred from above, the question doesn't really interest me. Although I AM mildly curious about how you came to be privy to Lonergan's contract.


Have I seen Kenneth Lonergan's contract? A better question might be, did Kenneth Lonergan see Kenneth Lonergan's contract?

"The playwright/filmmaker had locked himself in an editing suite and refused to budge from his three-hour cut. He had that privilege, I was told, with final cut assured — but only up to 120 minutes.


Even more intriguing are the other enemies Lonergan has made throughout the process, including his late co-producer Sydney Pollack (who Camelot says had “become disgusted by, and frustrated with, Lonergan’s unprofessional and irrational behavior”) and the three-time Oscar-winner Schoonmaker herself, whose suggestions to the filmmaker supposedly went largely ignored."


I'm in no position to judge the quality or height of the leap from 'Shotgun Stories' to 'Take Shelter', not having seen either film, but the thought of the writer of 'Analyze This' and 'The Adventures of Rocky & Bullwinkle' suddenly fancying himself as the next Erich von Stroheim is a terrifying enough hurdle for me.

Glenn Kenny

To paraphrase one half of Double Ed in "Blue Velvet," OC, "If you opt not to see 'Margaret' is does me no harm."

Evelyn Roak

Seems like Oliver C is overly concerned with Kenneth Lonergan's obligation to transfer some money to a certain medical practitioner.

Craig Kennedy

Going in thinking about Lonergan's contractual obligations is exactly the wrong way to see this or any movie.

Glad to see Glenn standing up for the merits of a movie that deserves better than it's gotten both from critics and audiences. It worked better for me in its more intimate moments than when it was reaching for the big picture, but I'm also not sure it's safe to pass judgment after just one viewing.

We bitch and we bitch and we bitch about Hollywood taking the safe route with remakes and sequels, yet when someone swings for the fences, there's always plenty of people who want to swat them back down. Margaret maybe isn't a home run, but it isn't a strikeout either.

I wonder if we'll see a longer version on DVD. It wasn't wearing out its welcome for me even at 2 1/2 hours. It felt chaotic at times, but it didn't feel flabby. If anything it could've been more fleshed out.


I'm with you on this, Glenn (except the Bay Ridge part; I guess I forgave that more than you did on the grounds that 95th street stop, at any rate, looks so much different today than it did five years ago, and I also didn't find Ruffalo and Rosemary DeWitt as "lumpen" as you did); despite the fact it is a failure on some level (and doesn't solve all the problems of the rough cut I saw five years ago), it is a powerful experience, and I credit Paquin and Lonergan for not taking the easy way out on her character. Admittedly, I do have a weakness for hyper-articulate characters who nonetheless can't completely express themselves, and Lonergan doesn't do as good a job with that as he did in YOU CAN COUNT ON ME, but he's playing on a bigger canvas here, and much riskier one as well. I also hope he makes more films.


I didn't mind the running time itself, but the way that so many of the individual scenes seemed to go on and on, making the same point over and over again (it's probably not a fair comparison, but I was reminded in this regard of the Martin Brest/Bo Goldman SCENT OF A WOMAN).

Paquin was spectacular, though. Has any of her other post-Piano work been as strong?


"...the thought of the writer of 'Analyze This' and 'The Adventures of Rocky & Bullwinkle' suddenly fancying himself as the next Erich von Stroheim is a terrifying enough hurdle for me."

Yeah, let's beat the guy up for his bill-paying journeyman work and ignore his playwriting career and YOU CAN COUNT ON ME. It's well known that all great filmmakers sprang fully formed from the head of Zeus.


"Matter of fact, nobody knew all the details. But it should have been perfect. I mean he had Tony from Italy and Pollack the Polack watching his ass. And he had fifteen million dollars, final cut rights and every star in his pocket. But in the end, he fucked it all up. It should have been so sweet, too. But it turned out to be the last time that somphomores out to shoot the Great Post-9/11 American Novel were ever given anything that fuckin' valuable again."

-- as Joe Pesci said in 'Casino' (sort of)

Jeff McMahon

I'm glad to see this appreciated, I thought it was captivating as well. And it was a pretty swift 2 1/2 hours. I think a big part of the reason why it worked for me was the way it keeps punctuating its emotional grandiosity with scenes of ground-level humor, like the classroom scene in which Matthew Broderick insists on his interpretation of Shakespeare, or Jean Reno rather clumsily explaining 'Jewish reactions'. It's a movie that knows that the most passionate emotions are also often the most ridiculous.

I'd say that Oliver C here is doing some high-toned trolling, but to what end?


The fact that the writer-director (who played Margaret's dad) is married to the actress who played Margaret's mother kept distracting me at odd moments in the film. The film had enough dead moments that I had time to imagine their breakfast conversations during the shoot ("Honey, are we filming my topless scene today or my masturbation scene?")

Terrific as much of the film was, especially the performances, I wish I could call it "a swift 2 1/2 hours." Because when the film wasn't bogged down in ten-minute argument scenes that could have taken seven-or-eight minutes, we'd get a few minutes of someone walking down the street for a few minutes in slow motion.

But of course I'm one who first saw the butchered version of Once Upon a Time in America when it was released and didn't think the longer version could be any good, only to be blown away by the directors' cut (in my defense, it was my first Leone, and I was only 22).

Ryland Walker Knight

As my buddy Akiva said, I just hope Lonnergan didn't shoot some abortion scene that's now cut. The abruptness of this film (whatever other versions may or may not or may yet exist) is one of its strengths. I liked it a lot. The Eustache comparison isn't so out there. Another name to drop on it, maybe: E. Yang.

Jeff McMahon

It seemed pretty clear from her demeanor that she had never had an abortion and was just seeking attention in a fresh manner.

Ryland Walker Knight

Obviously she's looking for attention. Looking past that, it seems feasible that she coulda gotten pregnant by the Culkin kid and then flipped that bird on its head with this little 180 -- notice how the camera lurches as her story does, after every layer of bullshit it moves further around and away from her, until she's faces with it/us and she "quits" her little narrative. But enough with the plausibles. That'll doom anything.

My comment was more about my interest in seeing what was left out, what other textures were brought to bear. You can imagine Broderick got to say something else to Lisa and her stoned friend another time. You can imagine more of the play, more of the little brother. At worst? It's a rich, rich text that complemented my weekend and some of my ideas about all the stuff the movie's about (including the movies).


If memory serves, in the rough cut I saw five years ago, there was another scene between Paquin and Damon where it is clear she was making it up about the abortion, but the specifics elude me, other than Damon getting pissed at her.


For the record, the copy of the script I have (dated July 2003) doesn't feature an "abortion scene" per se, but does include a scene in which Lisa's mom takes her to the clinic to get one. So Lonergan didn't initially intend for her to be inventing it. That doesn't preclude him changing his mind later, of course.


Anyone in the Los Angeles area know if this is still playing anywhere? It lasted exactly a week at the Westside Landmark.

Craig Kennedy

It's supposedly at the Culver Plaza Theater. http://www.moviefone.com/theater/culver-plaza-theater/376/showtimes


Thanks for that, Craig. I'll try to see it before it disappears.

Eddie Carmel

What jbryant said. Also Craig Kennedy. Even if it took Lonergan fifteen years to make this picture AND it still stunk (I haven't seen it, so can't judge, but I loved YOU CAN COUNT ON ME) don't we at least have the satisfaction of knowing that the film is the work of an artist with a vision? I'm not saying that er, guidelines and deadlines aren't inherently a good thing (I often appreciate that Billy Wilder came from a journalism background, for example) but when somebody takes this long on a MOVIE, doesn't it say that he or she is taking the art form seriously and shouldn't we? It certainly doesn't seem easy.


I'm late to the party with this, but I was able to catch "Margaret" before it left my city, and I'm very glad I did. It's a fascinating film. Strangely, a movie I thought about in relation to it is the similarly underrated Erick Zonca's "Julia". I mean, they're totally different, but both films share a sprawling, manic energy that's punctuated by an abrupt, elliptical style (like Cassavetes by way of Pialat). They also feature two of the strongest, most uncompromising female characters/performances in recent cinema. Like Tilda Swinton's hot-mess Julia, Anna Paquin's Lisa is a thorny, prickly character who is so maddening and who makes so many ill-judged decisions, it becomes sort of a trial to keep caring. And, remarkably, you do. Or, at least I did.

A lot of people have already talked about the film's accurate portrait of adolescence, post-traumatic stress, etc. But one element that struck me as kind of significant is the relationship Lisa has with men, particularly her father (remember the way he hesitates a bit before he says he loves her). It's interesting how Lisa lashes out at almost every older male she comes across -- including teachers and police officers -- and yet remains diffident whenever she talks to her father, who really kind of deserves it. Lonergan is also great at including very authentic, real-life touches amidst the film's larger operatic aims. Some of my favorite moments include the scene in which Lisa tries to make a grand exit at Matt Damon's apartment, but gets stopped by the locks. Or when she scrambles to find a pen that works to take down Emily's contact information. "Margaret" definitely isn't perfect, but like a lot of great works of art, its flaws seem as oddly essential as its strengths.

I don't know enough about the film's troubled production history to make any big judgements, but Fox Searchlight is kind of on my shit list now. It really sucks that they're going to pour all their money and resources into aggressive campaigns for mediocre films like "Shame" and "The Descendants", while they have a near-masterpiece on their hands, which they've dumped like yesterday's garbage. They also seemed to drop the ball on "The Tree of Life", a film I think could have done better, but that's another story.


Scott: I've got Zonca's JULIA in my Netflix Instant queue and hope to get to it soon. His THE DREAMLIFE OF ANGELS is one of my favorite films of the last 20 years, so I'm hopeful, especially after seeing your post. MARGARET is not likely to come to my neck of the woods, alas.

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